I found this traditional Italian recipe using cauliflower, in one of my mothers old Italian cook books, The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces, by Diane Seed. I have previously made the Sicilian recipe, Pasta al Cavolfiore, but this one is a bit different. I am not sure where the recipe originates. Diane collected her recipes from her travels and life in Italy and I have seen similar recipes on many Italian websites and blogs.
I had to adapted this recipe to veganise it. So instead of double cream, I used cashew cream and instead of chicken stock, I just used vegan chicken stock. I haven’t made cashew cream for a while. When I first made it I used my bar mix, but it wasn’t as successful. This time I used my jug blender and it made it so creamy. I did have to continue to scrape it down the sides and blend, but it was worth the wait. I think I will try to utilize cashew cream more in my cooking, as it works just as well as cream. Also boiling the cashews for 10 mins, softens them just as good as pre-soaking them, in case you forget like I always do.
As for the dish we all really liked it. It was rich and creamy and the taste of cauliflower was there, but in a good way. What I mean is if you don’t like cauliflower, like me and Marco, you will still like this. I served it with a simple mixed lettuce and vine tomato salad and some toasted sourdough baguette. This is a really healthy recipe and would be great for picky eaters. To make it gluten free just use gluten free short pasta, as the sauce is gluten free already.
Between this recipe and Pasta al Cavolfiore, I really liked both. If I had to chose, I really liked the Sicilian version, because of the raisins and the pine nuts. Marco definitely preferred this version. He’s not a fan of fruit or nuts in savory dishes. It goes to show that sometimes the traditional dishes are the best!
Penne al Cavolfiore (vegan, gluten free option, soy free)
500g penne or short pasta (use gluten free pasta if you prefer)
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup filtered water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 small red chili
1 whole cauliflower
230g tin diced or plum tomates
250ml vegan chicken or vegetable liquid stock
sea salt & black pepper to taste
vegan parmesan to serve
3. Strain the cashews and rinse in cold water. Then place in the blender/processor. First grind till the cashews break up as much as they can. Then slowly add the water and process until it becomes a smooth cream.
4. Heat a pot with olive oil, then add the garlic and a red whole chili. Cook on medium heat for 10 mins.
5. Add cauliflower florets and cook for 5 mins. Stir often.
7. Add liquid stock and cook for a further 15-20 mins, or until the cauliflower is quite soft. During this time cook the pasta and strain.
8. Take off the heat, remove the chili and stir through the cashew cream, salt and pepper. Then mash the cauliflower with a potato masher.
9. Heat the sauce with the pasta, then serve with vegan parmesan.